11 March, 2015

What are we humans doing with this world ?

(Image courtesy : constantinealexander.net via google)

What is wrong with the world of today ?  I now often wonder
Why are people tearing each other, countries apart, asunder
Why is there so much hatred in this world ?
With allegations and accusations against each other, being hurled.

Look at Planet Earth, the very planet we all call 'home'
Where now zealots plunder in the name of religion and freely roam
Goodness and morality do not seem to make the cut anymore
As hatred and animosity run riots in human minds and come to the fore.
We humans take it for granted, think it's our birth-right
To maul and strip Mother Nature, to raze trees on sight
Climate change, unusual weather, we wring our hands and fret
But are we doing our bit to save greenery and trees ? No, not yet !

Deforestation has become the name of the game
It's all in the name of progress, politicians claim
Mother Nature shows her displeasure and fury every so often
The stance of politicians the world over, however, does not soften.

People are too busy with power play and dominance
Human values do not seem to hold the same pertinence
Lives are cheap, morals askew
To stand up against wrong and right, there are but a few.

Violence rears its ugly head way too frequently
Gunmen get into schools and go on shooting sprees
People in nations tortured, maimed and killed by terrorists
There seems to be no room in this world, for non-conformists.

Religion still happens to be the most favoured tool
Steeping minds and hearts with hatred, forming vile cesspools
One still hears of bloodshed aplenty in the name of God
In the name of One who's supposed to protect and nurture, is that not odd ?

That day in Bombay's history will forever be etched in my memory
Where ordinary people went on a bloodthirsty spree
I was at work when, one by one, the bombs exploded
As, one after the other, multiple places in the city were pounded.

I saw bodies being carted away in trucks, limbs lying scattered
The heart ached to see the city torn, families shattered.
If one thinks these incidents were just events in the past
Look at the more recent ones the world over, they'll leave one equally aghast.

Caste and religion are such fertile breeding grounds even today
Little children being indoctrinated into violence, their minds led astray
The heart aches and the eyes sting with tears
As children are taught to handle guns and bombs, and terror cheers.

Women have no space to voice themselves, in many a place
As their own, physical or mental, many women can claim no space
Women are still treated as objects, to claim and plunder
When will good sense prevail, if at all, it makes one wonder.

Watching the evening news is nary a pastime anymore
For, all one hears in the headlines and news, is a whole galore of gore
What comes from such violence, I ask
Is there indeed such hatred deep in the minds of people, to unleash and unmask ?

Violence, bloodshed, carnage and mayhem rule the roost
With false values and deceptive tenets, young minds are being seduced
Is this right, is this really the road to heaven or jannat, as claimed
Does violence not leave families shattered and youngsters, for life, maimed ?

Why then, does humankind spread such hatred and loathing
And in doing so, what sort of a future course are we charting ?
War and bloodshed in the name of personal conviction
Oh brethren ! Human attitudes are so very brazen.

We humans are fast being dragged into a mire
We humans are fast setting the world afire
Humanity has imprisoned itself in cages of bigotry
To random violence and anger, there seems to be no boundary.

Change is what the world over, humanity needs
Pray, who's going to make a start in tilling hearts and of change, sowing the seeds
It has to start from the grassroots, it so does
To crush prejudices and bigotry, do we humans have it in us ?

Oh ! Don't you think there's got to be a start somewhere ?
Of intolerance, chauvinism and prejudice, all humanity needs to beware
A start sure needs to be made on this front
Else, our future generations risk bearing, of such hatred, the brunt.
Else, our future generations risk bearing, of such hatred, the brunt.


06 March, 2015

India's Daughter

India's Daughter

India's Daughter.
This documentary by Leslee Udwin is making the headlines all over – for a whole range of reasons.  The most important one being that this documentary is about the mindset which has prevailed in patriarchal societies like India for eons now and how this, in turn, becomes the root cause of many an evil towards women in society.  It is a known fact that these mindsets towards subjugation of women exist even today, even among the so called ‘educated’ community in India.  India’s Daughter serves not just to drive those attitudes home, it actually brings to the fore, focuses attention on why women are still subjugated, dominated and suppressed in an India which is supposed to be ‘fast developing’.
The government of India, for reasons or excuses best known to it, have banned the screening of this documentary in India.  My question remains the same – Why ?  I guess this question will have a whole plethora of answers ranging from “it shows our country in bad light” to “this sends out the wrong message to people because the convicted rapist has been interviewed in this documentary”. 
If the reason is the former, it is not the documentary that shows our country in bad light.  It is the fact that crimes against women are still rampant and worse still, action taken is far and few, if at all any.  That is cause for concern, not the fact that the flaws are being openly portrayed in this documentary.  If it is the latter, judging by the opinions of some of the other people who have been featured in this documentary, this mindset of women not having any say in anything worthwhile, women being treated as doormats, women being held responsible for crimes against them, is more widely prevalent than what people would like to believe, think and assume.  Therein lies the monster and it is this monster whose face has been unmasked, in Leslie Udwin’s documentary.
This documentary makes an attempt to showcase women’s rights (or the lack of it) all over the world.  There are so many countries where women suffer on account of repression, they still continue to live under the shade of inferiority that patriarchy has shadowed them with, many women still continue to be repressed and victimized on a regular basis, just by virtue of being a woman.
There have been quite a few critics of the documentary who have pointed out to the fact that the research done when producing this documentary, leaves a lot to be desired.  That may be true but just for a moment, let’s look beyond the nitty gritties and focus on the matter that this is trying to bring to the fore. 
That highhanded male attitude that patriarchy bestows on male members of its society is so very evident, especially in the clips where the convicted rapist has been interviewed and worse still, when the defendents’ scum lawyers open their mouths and spew filth.  It was unnerving, hair raising and extremely infuriating watching those interview clips.  When the convicted rapist talks of his brother (the main perpetrator in this heinous incident), the feeling I got was one of adulation, of the fact that he looks up to his big brother as the person ‘who could do anything’.  There is a definite element of hero worship when he talks about his brother having ‘done such things before too’.
The almost amused look that flickers across his face, the complete lack of remorse and those blank eyes stand testament to male attitudes that persist, that are very much alive and kicking in the Indian society, even today.  There is not a sign of regret or repentance over what they did, neither does there appear to be any element of shame.  Instead, he does what many men like him have been taught to do, by society and by their parents, through the years – point the finger elsewhere and blame someone else.  He nonchalantly blames the girl for what happened with her when he says ‘they had to teach her a lesson because she fought back’.  His parents, when interviewed, point fingers at the other four accused in the gang rape.  In their minds, both their sons were not to blame. 
What is most dismaying, most disturbing about the whole documentary is a truth that people already know.  Atleast people from India do, very well.  It is how women, how feminity is viewed in India by a whole spectrum of males, ranging from the uneducated rapist to the so called ‘educated’ lawyers.  It is the unapologetic misogyny, the unrepentant objectification of women that this documentary unmasks.   This predominant male mindset is prevalent only too widely. 
Another thing that the documentary brings to the fore is the fact that in the minds of these men who have been convicted and in prison right now, nothing has changed.  I cringe at the knowledge that the juvenile who was just as responsible as the many others, in gang raping Jyoti Singh, will walk free in December 2015.  This animal will roam the streets once again and can our legal system, which chose to give him a three year sentence on the basis of him being underage, vouch for the fact that this sentence has been deterrent enough to prevent him from doing something as heinous, all over again ?  No, it can’t.  It exposes another one of those many loopholes in the Indian legal system wherein someone who gang raped and murdered a woman gets away, simply because he is not eighteen yet.  Our prison systems do nothing either.  Is he going to walk out of his juvenile prison, a changed man ?  I sincerely doubt it.  So then, on what basis are our courts letting him walk out, a free man, come December 2015 ?
The heart goes out to her parents and to me, they stand as shining examples of dignified courage.  There is helplessness writ large on their faces.  Definitely yes and that is totally gut wrenching.  It is that powerlessness, that vulnerability that underscores why, as of today, there is a definite limit, a ceiling to what one can do in the face of literally every crime that takes place against women in our country today – right from domestic violence to rape.   Yet, through their helplessness, their pain, they come across as symbols of hope – hope that there would be more parents like  them who are prepared to stand up to their families, hope that there would be more parents like them who would be broadminded enough to defy societal rules in educating their daughters, hope that there would be more parents like them who know and recognise their daughters’ strengths and appreciate them.
The Indian government has pretty much done the people of its nation, the women of its nation and feminity in general, a disfavour by banning the screening of this documentary in India.  They are doing exactly what people have been doing in the past – trying to push the problem into the deepest recesses of a dark drawer in the hope that it blows off and the whole thing just disappears, goes away. 
Simply put, our society needs to take a long, good look at the mirror that has been placed in front of its face and confront the issues that need confronting, not push them away into the deepest recesses of the nearest closet in the hope that the issues disappear.
The documentary does not sermonise, nor does it show the country or its people in bad light, nor does it seek to glorify the directors and the producers.  Very simply put, it unmasks, it unveils, it bares, it reveals all over again, the picture of women in India, shackled by the chains of a patriarchal society.  It debunks the myth that things have indeed changed and more importantly it hits home on the fact that there needs to be a beginning somewhere, a start towards changing the notations, the assumptions, the mindsets in people, towards womanhood and feminity. 

23 February, 2015

The Beauty of Books - A Tribute

(Image courtesy : etsy.com via Google)

A journey to lands far away
On ships that, to the ocean’s seduction, sway
One travels far and free, one wanders into lands barren
As always, the travels come at a winning bargain

One sojourn takes me to the wildness of Africa
Another to the sublime, peaceful land of the Buddha
With James Bond, I’ve often done the jive
Off helicopters, there are times when I’ve taken a dive

London and Paris were just a stone’s throw for a heart flying free
There were trips on the Missisippi River, with who else but Becky
I’ve lived the life of an architect, struggling in obscurity
As well as Mrs. Bennett’s life of borderline insecurity  

There have been so many doors open
Adventures to magical, mythological lands, often spun
Of voyages aplenty on magic carpets, I’ve had my fill
Many a times, as i pictured with closed eyes, time stood still.

All these magical adventures and journeys, I hold dear
When diving off the helicopter, I did indeed feel fear
It is like being caught in a whirlwind of emotions
When being with witches and fairies, mixing their potions

Life chugs along at its own pace
Bringing with it, many a different phase
The sojourns however, continue, as they will
Every time I turn a page, there’s a hidden element of thrill

As I inhale the fragrance of the yellowed paper
As my eyes settle on the words that dance and caper
It draws me into its world, holds me like an anchor
The heart responds to emotions … joy, sorrow and anger

Such is the power of books and they’re indeed my friends
When in such lovely company, a journey never ends
They open doors like nothing else does
They do so gently, without much fuss

What would people do, without books to read
Of imagination in one’s mind, they plant the seed
They hold the essence of the universe in their lines
A flight of imagination to our earthly minds

Into everything, they breathe life, they are indeed ageless
Without books, life would indeed be Oh ! so tedious
As someone once did so fittingly advise
“Reading is dreaming with open eyes”.

11 February, 2015

Yo Modi-Shah Parivaar !! Ab ki baar, kiski sarkaar ??

(Image courtesy : indiatoday.intoday.in via Google)

The people in Delhi have spoken, Oh they have !
Does the BJP, to this rout, now have a salve ?
Eight months back, people called it the 'Modi Wave'
A lot many said 'our country, only this man can save'.

Sceptics like me were in the minority
To warnings of voting in a fascist, his supporters did not agree
'We need leaders like him' people boasted and cackled
'Why can't they see through this man ?' I often wondered, horrified and baffled.

What about the Godhra riots and his role in them, I shouted myself hoarse
People had a whole bag of counter arguments to that one, of course
None of which made sense and they all seemed to beat about the bush
People seemed hell bent on giving Modi, towards the PMs chair, a push.

Think about it, people, think about it
'Tis been eight months since, on the PMs chair, he began to sit
Huge promises he did make, at those noisy election rallies
Now, looking at the achievements, does any of it tally ?

Arrogance has always been a part of him, it always has
'Swacchh Bharat and Clean Toilets' and all that jazz
On what counts has his government even begun to deliver, I ask
Will the people of India have it in them, to take him to task ?

Armed with his alma mater of organized religion
The khaps, panchayats, patriarchy still rules the bastion
The sadhus, sadhvis and khaki chaddis, as ever, regressive
Bringing them to power just made the atmosphere for them, more conducive.

Apart from facilitating 'community fraction' under the RSS faction
What else has he done ?  Any answers ?  Anything ?  Anyone ?
Communal comments like "Ramzadon ya Haramzadon" he did sanction
He's thoroughly living up to his reputation of 'all talk and no action'.
May I call upon all of those who called Manmohan Singh a mounmuni, silent
Those very people, on our current PM, come on, let's pass a judgment.

Our country's woes continue to increase
In pulling wool over the lower and middle classes, his game plan was a masterpiece
To all those people who touted Modi as a saviour
To all those people who, about his abilities, were so sure

I have one question for all of you, today.
Think carefully and answer truthfully, if you may.
Did you bet on the wrong horse, back then
On this issue, can you still call him a saviour and about it, be zen ?

Organized religion has always been a strong theme
Politicians 'use it' effectively, as, eight months back, we've seen'
'Time for BJP, Time for Change' said the posters
People fell for it and brought into power, a bunch of impostors.

I've never been a Modi fan, nor will I ever be
Every time I look at his picture, the atrocity in Godhra is what I see
A fascist dictator, authoritarian and an autocrat
Did the 'aam janta' really think he would turn into a democrat ?

'Bahut hui desh mein mehangaai ki maar, Bahut hua brashtachaar'
Crowed and boasted his PR think tank 'Ab ki baar, Modi sarkaar'
Yeh sab satyavachan to nikley bekaar
Kya yeh Bharat ke vikas ke liye bani Modi sarkar ya phir ho rahi hai din dhuni atyachaar ?

The people of Delhi, to the truth, have woken
Their displeasure at having been taken for a ride, aloud they've spoken
Will the rest of the country take a long, good look at the current government's statute ?
And, in the future, like the people of Delhi, prove just as astute ?

I hope. I pray they do.








18 October, 2014

The 11th of October, 2014 - The evening that was .....

Thus it all began .....

 .... about a month and a half back, with pictures that started surfacing just about everywhere. Colourful and bright, with little creative snippets of desi Hindi that promised fun, these pictures caught the eye. They did exactly what they were meant to, I guess. They set the ball rolling as far as the Laguna Indians’ Diwali Party was concerned. 

These colourful tickets made their appearance on just about every form of social media – Facebook and Whatsapp being the most notorious ones and it did create the ripple of anticipation and excitement that the organizers were aiming at. For people wanting to attend “the most happening party in town”, the appearance of these posters was akin to planting seeds in a garden and watching out for those little seedling heads to make their way out of the soil, seeking the sun. Excitement knows no bounds when the seedlings appear, little tiny indicators that promise good times ahead. The sure and steady appearance of the multi coloured tickets left its mark. The anticipation started to build, curiosity was tickled and the resultant eagerness and excitement were carefully nurtured with further well timed ticket releases. 

 That evening of the 11th of October, 2014 saw the residents of Laguna City at their resplendent best. There seemed to be colours everywhere. It was a sight to behold, as all the eye could see were the vibrant hues that the Indian community in Laguna City were sporting. Ranging from effervescent greens to pulsating reds to energetic oranges to lively yellows, the outfits were vivacious, bright and brilliant. Complementing and balancing the intensity of the bright colours were guests with outfits in pastel shades of mauve, baby pink, the creams – soft, subdued, yet shimmering. 

People were streaming out of the many different blocks in Laguna City, their dazzling presence and glow that evening, literally illuminating the lobbies and paths. That evening, Laguna City seemed bright and radiant – immensely highlighting the two very aspects that form the core essence of Diwali. The place was pulsating, it was alive enough for necks to turn, for people to stop in their tracks and gape. 

The stage was set ! 

The party venue,Tamarind, marked a striking contrast to the rest of Wanchai that night. While the outer perimeters of Wanchai appeared lethargic, sluggish and somnolent, this place stood out pretty much like a lighthouse in the midst of a heavy storm. It was alive and buzzing. The evening gathered speed slowly but steadily. With more and more dazzling guests streaming in, the “sparkle” enlivened and as the guests started to get into the spirit of things, the vivaciousness and enthusiasm levels registered a surge too. 

 The photographers were around, pretty much ready to snap moments in bytes of memory, for posterity. Had it not been for the little captured bytes, many of those moments would have been impossible to reproduce. 

It was just about to get even more “awwwwwww” inspiring. That evening being Karwa Chauth, there were plenty of ladies who had been fasting all day. The moon co-operated too, appearing nice and radiant, for the said ladies to complete their prayers and break their fast. I’ve watched the Karwa Chauth proceedings in many a movie over the years but watching it in person did have a strong “brings about a catch in the throat” element to it. 

 The kids, in the meanwhile, were having a nice time in an alcove all to themselves. There was an Overhead Projector, there were movies, games for them to indulge in and most importantly, no nagging parents around. Now, give me one kid who would not be thrilled to bits with that combination in hand. Oh and a steady stream of food and drinks to keep those hunger pangs far far away. The kids were busy having a party of their own ;-). 

 Morsels of lovely appetisers were all over the place. I mean to say there were waiters walking around, with trays of palate tickling appetisers (clarifying, just in case someone gets the impression that they were strewn all over the place). People were walking around meeting friends, making new ones. We met up with a friend that evening, after almost 19 years and it was such a lovely feeling. There were handshakes and hugs all around, pappis and jhappis flying everywhere. All in all, the whole community was like one big, happy family.  

Just in the midst of all the buzz and excitement, Prakash got hold of a mike and started exhorting people to gather around. Now, Prakash proved to be a force to contend with, as the Master of Ceremonies, with a mike in hand. I’m sure he is a force to contend with without a mike as well but with a mike, he kind of turns into a good Loki with the added powers of the Tesseract. Good Loki, people I stress on the word “Good” !!! :-D. What started off with Prakash exhorting people to gather around for Bingo soon turned into playful dhamkis being issued. He was the quintessential life of the party :-). 

 “Arrey, sab log yahan aa jaaao Tambola ke liye varna ….”. He used to leave the dhamkis unfinished, just to leave the audience wondering. The power of imagination is a very potent one so he used to leave people to imagine “agar nahin gaye to kya karega Prakash” :-D. Finally, he managed to accomplish the impossible – got everybody from the nook next door and guests from the deck to gather in the main function room and that was when it happened. Everything went dark. People didn’t know if they were eating from their own plates or someone elses ;-) ! 

Did the fuse blow ? Why had the lights gone out ?. Was something wrong ? 

Suddenly, in unison, many voices rang out from all corners of the function room. It was the famous bhajan from the movie Parinay.... “Jaise Suraj Ki Garmi sey Jalte Hue Tan Ko Mil Jaye”. 

Wow ! 

 Just as people were drawn to the powerful notes of the song, the collective rendition of the same created a surreal effect in that confined space. Goose bumps, people, goose bumps !! As multiple pairs of eyes strained and squinted to locate the source of the beautiful melody, a few small blue lights came on – all spread out in many different places inside the function room. They were on the stoles around the necks of the gentlemen singing this song. It was indeed whimsical, original and imaginative. Whoever thought of this needs to be commended heartily as this pretty much turned out to be one of the awesome highlights of the entire evening. 

Pssstttt !!! Apparently, the gentlemen are absolutely thrilled at having pulled off the song and as such, are planning a dance too, at the next Diwali party. So all ye people of Laguna City, do watch out for that one ;-D. 

Once the shor dhamaka of the bingo / tambola died down, the winners were announced. People made Prakash repeat numbers time and again by marking out numbers which had not been called out. All this I guess because Prakash started off saying “I will call out the numbers only once” :-D. Tsk tsk tsk. Dhamkiyon ka natija kuch theek nahin nikla !!! For the next party, Prakash needs to brush up on the dhamkis !! 

Whilst dinner was on, some more raffle prizes were announced as also the prizes for Best Dressed Male and Best Dressed Female. The prize for the best dressed male went to Senthil Kumar, who had chosen to wear the traditional pattu veshti (white silk lungi), shirt (you all know what that is) and a crisply ironed angavastram (a stole of sorts worn by men in the South of India) over his shoulder. The prize for the best dressed lady went to Poonam Gangwani who was dressed in a beautifully sequined pink outfit. 

Among the other prize winners were Peter Fernandes (for being the first person to reach the venue), Nicole (for sporting the best mehendi pattern), Shyamala (for being the only lady there to have just her husband’s picture as her cell phone wallpaper). Loved the way Shyamala made her way to the DJs booth towards Anne :-D. It was an almost hesitant walk, almost as if hoping someone else would beat her to it :-D. Alas, no one did ! Way to go, Shyamala ! :-D 

Once dinner was done and over with, the kids started to warm the dance floor up and it was only a matter of time before the adults hit the dance floor as well. It was pretty much a “no holds barred” scene on the dance floor. People were dancing separately, in small groups, in big groups. End of the day, nothing else mattered but for the fact that people were letting their hair down and having fun. How could people stop dancing, batao ? Dhamki jo di gayi thi ki “jab tak baithne ko na kaha jaye, sharafat se naachtey raho”. Not just on Facebook, individual Whatsapp pe bhi dhamki !! Ab kya batayein, Laguna wasiyon – bhalai ka toh zamaana nahin raha :-D. 

Now, this blog post wouldn’t have been complete without picking the organizers’ brains about their inspiration and the impetus behind having undertaken the organization of the Diwali Party. One can only imagine the amount of effort and energy that they must have put in, to bring this evening to fruition. Right from the time this idea was visualized, the image of the same conjured up, the bigger aspects of the entire evening planned, as well as the little itty bitties and the oomph factors that go into making such an evening memorable, it must have been one massive endeavour. So what was it then, that gave them the driving force ? 

Here’s what they had to say : 

Living away from home, the way to stay connected is through staying together in our celebrations. Diwali, for us, is one such grand occasion to connect and therefore, we take it upon ourselves to put this event together for our Laguna Indians community. What started off in 2010 as a casual decision to flaunt our Indian finery has turned out to be a biennial event that has surpassed our expectations. 

When it all comes together in tandem and we sit back and enjoy the pictures (like this morning), it all begins to make sense as to why we do what we do. It is for the gorgeous people who live around us – the people who we do not have time to acknowledge as we ourselves are bogged down by our mundane lives, the people we might pass by without a smile, the special people who stand by us when needed. 

This coming together is for all of them – our friends & our friends of friends !! 

Beautiful words indeed, exquisitely capturing the beauty behind the sentiments that make the organizers go the lengths they go to, in putting together an evening as special as the Laguna Indians’ Diwali Bash. 

Why did I embark upon this whole blog post ? The reason is very simple. 

This little chronicle is intended to be a little memory wagon of that awesome evening. It is indeed meant to stand as a memoir to the cordiality, the friendliness, the geniality, all of which worked hand in hand that evening, to create an atmosphere that just wrapped itself around everyone there like a warm blanket, creating a cosy cocoon. This blog post is nothing but a tribute to the harmony, the camaraderie, the amity and the companionship that forms the underlying force, one that is a core of strength among the Laguna Indians. 

 Life, come to think of it, is nothing but a series of memories that we create and hold on to. It is a collection of reminiscences that stay with us for as long as we live, never ever fading, even with the passage of time. Good recollections are the little snippets that we humans cherish, that we embrace and seize, because in the space of those very memories, are encapsulated a whole load of good times and precious moments. Nothing is ever really finished, done and over with, as long as it rests in the crevices of our memory banks, jumping out into conscious memory when one least expects it. Therein lies the beauty of memories. 

 Like Cesare Pavese (an Italian poet, novelist) once said 

“We do not remember days, we remember moments”. 

The evening of the 11th of October, 2014, indeed had many of those moments. Pretty much like a little child walking on the sands of a beach, stopping to pick up beautiful shells, so did the Laguna Indians that evening as they immersed themselves in the ambience and created beautiful memories.

22 September, 2014

Geet Salil - A musical journey in tribute to Salil Choudhury

(Image courtesy : Tharangini Choir, HK)

Geet Salil, a musical evening, was presented twice in as many weeks, to music lovers in HK.  The evenings were a tribute to Salil Chowdhury (better known as Salil Da), and the musical legacy  he has left behind.

This post should have been done earlier, but when one steps into the world of Salil Da’s music, nothing is ever so simple and straightforward.  His melodies, through the years, have echoed with many different emotions and served many different purposes.  Most of all, what one remembers the most about Salil Da’s compositions, is not just the the songs and the scores, but the impact that the music leaves on ones mind.  

His was never the kind of music one could hear and then let lapse into the unconscious mind.  Even if not in the forefront of consciousness, his melodies (as evidenced by the Geet Salil evening) stay put in the sub conscious mind.  There they stay, simmering, smouldering just beneath the surface, waiting for that one tiny cinder to set a chain of memories ablaze with a whole range of emotions – love, hope, anger, despair, sheer joy – his melodies encompass all these and much more.

Thus, this post could never have been easy – given the gamut, the array it needs to cover.  Also, had I just penned a post on the Geet Salil evening without setting the stage with the elan and flair of Salil Da and his compositions, it would be grossly unfair to the Tharangini team who must have worked so hard over the past many months, towards producing this musical evening, this tuneful, melodic tribute to Salil Da. 

Salil Chowdhury has always been known for his versatility, a distinct blending of Eastern and Western music traditions.  He is quoted to have said once “I want to create a style that transcends borders – a genre which is emphatic and polished, but never predictable” and through his lifetime of composing music, that’s exactly what he did.

I remember listening to many songs through my growing up years, music for which had been rendered so artfully by Salil Da.  The one thing that always stood out about his music was the wide variety that he composed.  His music was never predictable – one never knew what to expect.  In being able to do that in the 1960s and 70s, without any digital components, is nothing short of sheer magic in itself.  Some scores, as soft as lullabies crooned to put babies to sleep while others were forceful enough to send awareness ripping through the conscious mind, searing itself on people’s psyches.

Jaagte Raho was one such movie.  That evening, when Hrishikesh Joshi started the opening notes to the song “Jaago Mohan Pyaare” from the said movie, I could feel the goosebumps.  As his voice echoed through the hall, forceful yet not a note out of sync, it made images float across the canvas of my mind.   Raj Kapoor’s body doubled over on the floor with despair written large all over his face and the little child who ‘awakes’ in him a sentiment of hope, infuses in him a sense of purpose.  I could almost visualise Nargis with that faint hint of a Mona Lisa smile.  This number made me reel, it was vigorous, it was dynamic and it was powerful – all the elements that I’m sure Salil Da intended for it to be.

Another such number, soft yet equally forceful was Aye Mere Pyaare Watan from Kabuliwala.  One could almost sense the presence of Balraj Sahni who plays the Afghan in the movie and echoes his longing for his motherland in this particular song.  This song was soft on the senses but just as demanding as Jaago Mohan Pyaare on one’s emotions.  Therein lies the beauty of Salil Da’s music compositions and therein lay the passion amongst the Tharangini team members in delivering a tribute to the great music composer.

The numbers were skilfully mixed and matched through the evening and many of them stood out in their brilliance, weaving their musical magic on the audience.  I, for one, was hooked right from the first number and rather gladly gave myself over to the emotions that were flooding the mind, the sentiments that were flooding the senses.

Jaaneman Jaaneman from Choti Si Baat rendered beautifully and playfully by Kaustubh and Mugdha, a peppy number which flirted with the memories of ones youth, reminding one of a rather bashful Amol Palekar in his hey days.  Once again, this is but an indication of the wide repertoire that Salil Da had, when it came to composing music.

Krithika’s version of Rajnigandha Phool Tumhare was an unplugged one.  There are very few instances when I’m left totally speechless in any given situation and this was well and truly one of them.  She literally brought the roof down over this one.  The ease and the mastery that she exhibited over this number would have made Salil Da happy and I’m sure, wherever he was that evening, he was listening.

There were many numbers from Anand too.  How could there not be ?  A monumental movie and the remarkable trio in terms of music – Gulzar, Salil Chowdhury and Mukesh.  This is one movie I will never ever forget.  When those numbers were on – Jairam enthralling with Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli and Narayanmoorthy’s charming rendition of Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaye and Maine Tere Liye Hi Saath Rang ke Sapne Chune, one could almost visualise Rajesh Khanna with that half smile, drawling “Babu Moshaaiii ….. arey oo babu moshaiiii”.  Then it was the turn of, the Mugdha – Krithika duo to enthral the audience with Na Jiya Lage Na in both, Bengali and Hindi.

Another remarkable feature of Salil Choudhury was the fact that he’d composed music for lyrics in many different languages.  Tharangini paid tribute to this facet of Salil Da with Suresh Kumar and Sudha Dilip rendering a couple of Malayalam songs which effortlessly transported one to God’s Own Country.

Mugdha, apart from rendering melodious tunes (both in Hindi and Bengali), also proved to be a treasure trove of information that she shared with the audience.  The mind boggles at the amount of research she must have undertaken, for those snippets of information that she kept feeding the audience, to provide a background on Salil Da’s life and her script, interwoven with the songs, gave people a very thorough picture of Salil Choudhury, his life and his journey in the world of music. The narration was all the more important to the uninitiated, like our kids, who could therefore relate to the music and melodies and enjoy the show.

Jairam absolutely astounded with a couple of numbers in Bengali – beautiful, delightful numbers in a language that is exquisite and sweet like the Rosgullas and Sondesh which Kolkota is famous for.

The child artistes who began the show with a Bengali song and absolutely amazed the audience with their fluidity in the language.  The diction was flawless and all of them looked completely at ease singing in a language that was not their mother tongue or one they do not use for communicating regularly.  Music indeed transcends languages and these little people, these talented children were ample proof.

The Geet Salil evening is one that will remain etched in memory for a long long time.  These numbers (among many others) were even more dear to my heart because during my growing up years, the only music I was supposed to be listening to, was Carnatic Classical music.  Hindi film music was usually scoffed at, by the elders in the family for whom the only music that was music, was Carnatic classical.  While I’ve been trained in Carnatic Classical music, my heart lay elsewhere.  Listening to Vividh Bharati around 11 am was something akin to playing truant for me and I was drawn into that world, I fell for it hook, line and sinker.  Listen to it, I used to, almost every day and I simply fell in love with the numbers from the 60s 70s and 80s.  For me, music was not and will never be measured in terms of whether they were songs from films or a proper classical concert or someone singing in a subway with a guitar in hand and a hat on the floor.

Music is music – something that you need to let wash over you.  Music is something that touches the very core in all things living.  Why just humans, even plants respond to music. It simply takes over ones senses, it mesmerizes, it tantalizes, it leaves one confounded with its sheer depth. Music has the capacity to make one laugh and forget all the problems and issues that life often presents, it also has the ability to make one cry in despair that is born out of the pain and melancholy intertwined in some numbers.  

If one were to narrow that essence of variability, diversity and assortment down to one person, it would be Salil Da.  The sheer complexity of his musical compositions prompted someone to say “Salil Da often crafts symphonies of four and a half minutes”.   It would not be wrong to say that he was an individual whose music was way ahead of its times.

I cannot even begin to imagine the sheer amount of effort and commitment that must have gone into the production of Geet Salil – starting with the budding concept, the follow up research, the practice and rehearsal sessions over the past many months.  Geet Salil did total justice in fusing his tunes and molding them in many different languages that evening.  The ultimate tribute to a master, they re-created that atmosphere that evening.  The ambiance, the mood, the feel, the tone, the way the numbers were rendered made the evening a transcendental one – taking the audience to heights hitherto unexperienced.  In doing that, they highlighted and brought to the fore once again, the creative genius of Salil Da and yet again, cemented the fact in the psyche of the audience that day that music knows no boundaries.

Anirudha Chatterjee described it brilliantly in his eulogy to Salil Da when he said “In an era when dancing means acrobatics and grace has come down to catwalks; when melody is sulking in the dark and music weighed in decibels, it needs more than a passing effort to feel the pulse of an artiste like Salil Choudhury”.

Tharangini, you guys did all that and much more to put together an evening like Geet Salil.  That was one beautiful musical rendezvous, a tryst which had so many hearts beating as one as Salil Da’s music worked its magic into hearts and minds and made inroads into the audience’s memories.

Take a bow, Jairam and Tharangini.

That was a true homage to a master musician – whose every song was an extremely colourful imagination at work, an imagination that knew no boundaries.

10 September, 2014

Middle Age Musings :-)))

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Thoughts do have this tendency to turn inwards more often, especially when one is in ones mid-forties.  I mean, forty plus years of life experiences have to provide for a rather myriad range of experiences – with all the goods the bads and the in betweens, all factored in and accounted for.  My thoughts too have been turning inward and of late, realisation is beginning to sink in more clearly than ever before.  The fact that there are so many things I should be thankful for.  If one were to do the Math, it puts me smack in the middle of Middle Age, starting today.  But like the saying goes “Growing Old is Mandatory, Growing Up is Optional”.  Ask the Nutty Siblings. They’d probably vouch for the fact that their mad mom is just as mad as ever – even as she starts the journey towards 45.    
Life has been an interesting equation so far and it continues to be so.  It has indeed been a very satisfactory sojourn with its veritable ups and downs, the plateaus and the highs, the mad moments and the eerily sane ones, the sweet and the bitter sweet.  Life has played its tricks with me at times, making things seem like an unending puzzle that just gets more and more complex just as one things one’s solved the mystery but on the other hand life has also handed me enough number of straight paths to send things whizzing on the fast lane, making it seem pretty much like riding an automobile at breakneck speeds on one of the freeways in the Land of Oz.  In its own inimitable way, life has indeed taught me much. 
As one grows older (see, I’m really trying to convince myself here), what I feel is a growing sense of self-awareness.   With an increasing sense of awareness, comes the need to change.  It could be a change in terms of attitude, change in terms of how we feel towards a particular situation or in a much broader sense, a change in perspective.  I find myself trying to look for the Dr.Jekyll side in people rather than the Mr.Hyde bit.  Well, it’s not particularly easy when you find the Mr.Hyde persona staring at you in the face and leering but yeah, it is a start towards trying to be less judgmental.  Strangely enough, this change in attitude is slowly starting to make a difference.  A freedom of choice, truth be told – to either feel more peaceful by focusing on the positives or get horribly worked up by focusing on the negatives.  That does however, in no way mean a certificate for people to try and smack me in the face (or wherever else, for that matter).  That just doesn’t cut it.  I still have way too much fire left in me to let stuff slide, beyond a point J.  Just saying.
People say maturity sets in with age.  Oh well !  I’m not so sure.  If maturity means not flying off the handle at the drop of a hat, yes, the years indeed seem to have mellowed me in that respect, somehow.  How and when it happened, I know not but it does take a lot more to get me all worked up, angry, screaming, foaming and frothing at the mouth and all that.  Guess it’s probably the senility setting in.  I mean, something probably makes me angry but I forget that I have to get angry.  Yeah maybe.  Well, now who says senility is bad huh ?  It’s working for me.  I ain’t complaining.  I would probably go as far as to say that a bit of mellowness has indeed infused itself into my spirit over the years and helped me metamorphose into a errr…. better person  (for lack of a better word).  Ask the immediate family – am sure they’ll vouch for it.  They wouldn’t dare defy that now, would they ???
Oddly enough, I do find little itsy bitsy things making me happier and bringing about a much deeper sense of satisfaction than the same things probably would have, say twenty years back.  Early today morning, as I sipped my coffee, I sighted the full moon (well it did look full to me – I wasn’t wearing my glasses) and it filled me with an inordinate sense of joy.  Yeah maybe I’m getting old but what the heck – if something like a full moon can fill me with a sense of joy and all that’s well with this world of ours, I’ll take it. 
Somewhere along the way, humility seems to have sneaked in and made itself a party of my psyche as well.  The younger generation might well confuse humility for timidity, just as I would have a couple of decades ago.  But like I said earlier, life has its own way of teaching you things.  For all you young ones out there, humility is nothing other than maintaining our own pride of what we are and what we’ve achieved in life – maintaining that sense of pride without the arrogance, conceit or a misplaced sense of superiority.  I know I know that’s one super confusing definition.  Well, it was meant to be.  So go ahead and chew on it.  You’ll figure it out by the time you reach the number I’m at, right now ;-).
If there is one thing I’ve always maintained, it was that I would age with grace.  I was never gung ho about fighting the ageing process.  Have never considered plastic surgery and won’t .  That said, a tattoo sure is on my wish list and I do hope to get that done soon.   Haven’t given much thought to the specifics though – I wouldn’t want something that starts out looking like a butterfly wing end up looking like a dinosaur’s wing.  Get what I’m saying ??
I notice new silvers in my hair almost every day (no – I don’t count them !) and I do carry the silvers in my hair and the laugh lines around my eyes, with pride.  Those wrinkles, those little crows feet that crinkle around my eyes when I laugh just serves as a reminder of how good life has been to me, for having given me the sheer luxury of laughter, for having given me countless opportunities to throw my head back and laugh.
The last time I’d been to the hairdresser a month or so back, he’d asked me if I wanted the greys in my hair, covered.  “I quite like my grey hairs” I remember saying to him and I think I scarred him for life.  I still remember that look of total shock when he heard me say that and I swear to god he actually took a couple of steps backward and squinted at me.  Either he thought I was stark, raving mad or he was just trying to make sure I wasn’t some alien in human garb.  Those silver strands in my hair, to me, are precious because they serve to remind me of the number of times I’ve worried about things – about the children, about the family, about the world in general.  They are worries that have stemmed out of love and caring.  So yes, every single time I look at the silvers in my hair, I choose to think of them as a gift that life has conferred on me – for having lived and loved.
There are some broad strokes to being in my mid-forties that others in the same age bracket would probably associate with and agree.  Things like being healthy, being fit take on a totally different connotation when one is in the throes of middle age, if I may say, than the casualness with which these things would have been dismissed in youth.  Good health and fitness are definitely appreciated as more than just a ‘given’, halfway through the forties. 
The older I grow (chronologically, of course not mentally) the more I realize how much more there is, to learn.  It just serves to deepen that feeling that I’ve always carried around as one of life’s mottoes “Learning is a lifelong process”.  Things can’t be farther than that, in terms of truth.  Youth does not let people easily admit that they don’t know something but with age, I find those barriers steadily breaking.  I have no qualms in admitting that I don’t know something and am totally comfortable learning and striving to find out more.  I just learnt whilst having a casual conversation with Pecan the other day, how little I actually know (or remember) about Indian history.  A decade back, I’d probably have been mortified.  Not really now.  If I don’t know something, I don’t know it.  When equations get simpler like that, it makes life a whole lot easier.  He’s taken on the role of a mini history teacher in my life and that’s working pretty good . 
Learning is indeed a continuous process, as evidenced by my attempts at learning to “let go”.  The Nutty Sibs are indeed growing up fast and every now and then, I have to curb that need to tell them what to do or what not to do.  It is a learning process for me to accept and act upon the fact that they can take care of themselves, to a reasonable extent now.  There is a little part of me that does acknowledge the fact that it is just a few more years before Macadamia and Pecan spread their wings and fly the nest.  I’m not at that level of readiness yet.  That’s going to take some more time to swallow and as of now, it has been filed away under “we’ll cross the bridge when we come to it”.
I have an absolutely beautiful, wonderful family that mean the world to me and then some.  I am fortunate enough to be in a profession I care deeply about.  Life has also brought me in touch with a whole load of friends in all nooks and crannies of this planet we call our home.  I’ve reconnected with a lot of old friends and family members over these past few years and it does leave me with a very warm, fuzzy feeling. 
So far, the forties have indeed been kind to me and couple of ladies I admire tremendously have reiterated time and again that the fifties are pretty much nirvana.  I know there is always that feeling of dread as one leaves one decade of life behind and enters another. 
To all the young ones out there who stare at the forties in trepidation, I speak from personal experience when I say “Don’t fear getting older – anticipate it, enjoy it !”  The view from up here is pretty much fabulous :-).